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Tips for Choosing Dietary Supplements

Author: Amitava Sarkar
by Amitava Sarkar
Posted: Apr 23, 2015

Do you eat a perfectly balanced diet that contains all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs? Chances are, you probably don't. Even the most conscientious, health-minded individuals don't always eat an ideal diet. That's where dietary supplements come in. A dietary supplement is considered to be a product that either supplements the food you eat or that contains one or more dietary ingredients such as vitamins and minerals, amino acids, herbs or other botanicals. Dietary supplements usually come in pill, tablet, capsule or liquid form. While many dietary supplements are meant to help a healthy individual get the nutrients missing from their diet, many other supplements are meant to have a medicinal purpose and support a particular area of health such as the immune system. Either way, supplements are not meant to be a substitute for a healthy diet or for medications your doctor may prescribe for you. However, if used correctly and intelligently, dietary supplements can be extremely beneficial. Read on to learn more about how to choose dietary supplements and what to keep in mind when using them.

  • Take a look at your current diet. Dietary supplements are there to make up a shortfall in your regular diet. It's important to evaluate your current diet to see what, exactly, is missing. For example, if you're lactose intolerant, you may not be getting enough calcium. If you're anemic, you'll need to make up for a lack of iron. Most registered dieticians recommend taking supplements that target your specific dietary need rather than taking a scattergun approach with a multi-vitamin.
  • Consider what you're already taking. Before taking any supplement or medication (prescription or over the counter), you need to check for any potential drug interactions between what you're taking now and any supplement you plan on taking. Certain botanical supplements adversely affect prescription medications. For example, St. John's Wort reduces the effectiveness of a wide range of drugs including oral contraceptives, HIV drugs, blood pressure medication and anti-depressants, to name just a few.
  • Do your research. Learn as much as you can about a supplement's manufacturer as well as about the supplement itself. Some supplements, such as the immune system booster
4Life Transfer Factor have scientific studies and a comprehensive listing in the Physician's Desk Reference (PDR), which is basically the bible of medications and supplements. If the supplement's manufacturer is reputable and there's solid scientific evidence to back up the manufacturer's claims, that goes a long way toward supporting the supplement's credibility.

  • Talk to your doctor. Of course, it's always extremely important to speak with your doctor, pharmacist or registered dietician before starting any dietary supplements. This is especially important if you are living with a chronic condition, or if you're pregnant or nursing. A trusted healthcare provider who is familiar with your health history can help you choose a dietary supplement that's best for you.
  • Avoid dangerous assumptions. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of making assumptions that can potentially be extremely dangerous. For instance, many people believe that just because a product is labeled as "natural," that it must be safe. There are plenty of herbal substances in existence that are natural but extremely toxic. Another assumption to avoid is thinking that if there isn't a warning label, the product is safe. Supplements are not regulated in the same way that other drugs are. A lack of a warning label doesn't mean the supplement might not have potential adverse effects.

Above all else, keep in mind that if a supplement's claims are too good to be true, they probably are.

About the Author: Beth A. Stevens is a dietician and contributing writer who enjoys helping people find supplements that are both safe and effective.

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Author: Amitava Sarkar

Amitava Sarkar

Member since: Nov 28, 2014
Published articles: 354

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